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My Life in Spain: Way More than a Textbook Experience

This summer Nick Reyland studied abroad in Madrid, Spain, where he spoke Spanish nonstop and learned to love soccer—just in time to see them win the World Cup.

Date: 9/3/2010
By: Nick Reyland
Other Contact: Kim Burdett
Other Contact Phone: (513) 556-8577
Photos By: Nick Reyland
Nick Reyland is a senior English major in the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences. This summer, he traveled abroad to Madrid, Spain where he learned about Spanish culture—and earned college credit while doing so.

Nick Reyland.
Nick Reyland spent a month in Madrid, Spain taking classes and studying Spanish culture.

When you are first accepted to study abroad, two thoughts race through your mind. The first is how grateful you are that finally your hard work has paid off and then you realize you finally get that month long vacation you so well deserve. Although both of these are true, it isn’t until your plane lands that you realize no matter how many hours you were nose deep in your textbook, nothing will compare to the month-long challenge of speaking with native speakers.

It didn’t take long to figure out my “vacation” was going to be difficult. The first challenge I met was my struggle to communicate with my taxi driver. With nothing more than a couple head nods and a smile, I simply pointed to my address written on a folder and sat quietly for the ride to my house.

For the first week I was the quietest guy in Spain. I always found myself in an intense game of charades with Spaniards, as I once tried to sign the word “airplane attendant” with my house mom. But, as time passed and I settled into my new environment, I soon found myself comfortable communicating with others and willing to embrace their culture. With the help of my professors Espe, Ava and Carlos, I learned more about the culture and history of Spain with unique hands-on experiences than I would have ever learned from a textbook.

UC students studying abroad.
Reyland went with a group of UC students to Madrid, where they shopped, visited art museums, and experienced the mayhem of the World Cup.

If I wasn’t learning about Spain in school, you could easily find me exploring the city with my fellow Ohioans. We were often found lounging on the grass in Retiro Park, exploring the immense art museums, or shopping at the infamous Puerta del Sol before heading out for a night of cheap drinks and unforgettable times.

My trip would’ve never been a success without the great people I met and the friends that I made. We not only became friends and experienced life together, we became a family. We shared the great times, the silly mistakes, the exotic foods and experiences but also lifted one another up when we were homesick, and watched over one another (except for the one incident of pick pocketing; they were exceptionally crafty).

While I was there, I learned first hand what patriotism means. Before living in Spain, I cared very little about soccer. Living in a country where few watch the sport and even fewer know the rules of it, I soon found myself as an outcast in their society. It wasn’t until I found myself in the basement of an Irish Pub chanting “U.S.A.” with 70 other American students that I realized something attracts Americans to Irish Pubs—and we will chant for anything American related.

However, once America was knocked out of the World Cup, we quickly began chanting for Spain. Watching Spain win the World Cup with my family abroad and celebrating the victory with millions of Spaniards is by far the most remarkable night of my life.

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